Maine’s Mid-Coast Loses Weekly Papers
Ink evaporates: The Midcoast Beacon is no more. The free weekly published by the Bangor Daily News called it quits with its Nov. 10 issue. In a front-page announcement, Bangor Daily editor Michael Dowd said the decision to shut down the operation was caused by “rising production and delivery costs.”
The Beacon, a mix of soft features and columns, was launched in May of 2009. It was originally mailed to every household in Waldo and Knox counties. In recent months, it had been included as part of the parent newspaper’s Thursday edition. Its editor, Roxanne Moore Saucier, was among those who took buyout offers from the BDN last month.
Also making cuts are the Village Soup newspapers. In a Nov. 9 column, publisher Richard Anderson announced that the twice weekly Herald Gazette, covering Rockland and Camden, would go to one-a-week publication as of Dec. 1.
In a piece that doesn’t seem to be on the company’s website, Anderson said both the Herald Gazette and the Republican Journal in Belfast would also be changing their emphasis. He said the papers would focus on “the richness of the people, place, and the events that motivate each of us to live in Midcoast Maine.” He described that focus as covering “the discoveries revealed during everyday encounters with neighbors and friends, with professionals and business owners as we go to work, school, community events, church, the harbors, lakes and hills.” He also promised more space for advertising.
Anderson said Village Soup would continue to cover breaking news on its websites.
In July, Anderson’s company closed its Rockland printing plant, laying off seventeen people.
(Disclosure: My weekly political column runs in the Village Soup papers.)
Also gone: Ron Bancroft, whose Tuesday column on politics and business ran in the Portland Press Herald for several years, is among the victims of cutbacks at that paper. His last entry was on Oct. 25.
MaineToday Media, owner of the Press Herald, has also ended free distribution of its biweekly help-wanted section called MaineJobs Xtra. The move follows on MTM’s decision to stop free distribution of its weekly GO! entertainment supplement in Greater Portland.
Clouds over the Sun: Here’s a disturbing update on my posting on the Lewiston Sun Journal’s seeming reluctance to report unsettling information on a proposed casino development in its hometown that was on the Nov. 8 ballot. The paper waited until election day to mention that the backers of the gambling enterprise in the Bates Mill in downtown Lewiston appeared to have signed a multi-million-dollar deal to sell much of the company to an out-of-state firm. The story had broken the previous week on Maine Public Radio. The casino plan – and the sale – were swept away by voters, who overwhelmingly rejected both questions on the ballot allowing expanded gambling in Maine.
According to two sources, one at the Sun Journal and one outside, a reporter and editor at the paper received all the documents cited in the radio story more than two weeks before the election. But no coverage appeared until well after the story broke elsewhere.
In my original posting, I wondered if the paper’s tardy and superficial response was due to laziness or a bias in favor of the local casino, which manifested itself in a reluctance to run news that might damage its chances of being approved. The evidence now seems to favor the latter option.
Investigative aides: The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting has added some heavy hitters to its board and advisory panel. According to a news release from the center, new board members include Matthew Storin, former editor of the Boston Globe and the Maine Times, and Gordon Lutz, retired director of corporate support at the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. Nick Mills – veteran reporter, Boston University journalism teacher, blogger and outdoor columnist – has joined the advisory board. The release said Mills will “help MCPIR explore non-newspaper markets for its stories and provide counsel on the center’s educational programs.”
Ad checker: In her Nov. 9 Bangor Daily News column, political science professor Amy Fried listed a number of steps that could be taken to improve Maine elections. One of them relates directly to the news media.
Fried wrote that the state’s journalism outlets should band together to create a local version of the PolitiFact website, which examines claims by candidates and officeholders in debates and advertising to assess their truthfulness. Fried said nine states have such a service, and Maine could benefit from “ a single site with clear, credible information.”
Great idea, but given the financial plight of the state’s media, I assume this will happen when pigs fly and politicians stop lying.
Al Diamon can be emailed at email@example.com.